Paul and the Law

Paul’s view on theology is evident in his explanation of the law and what justification through Christ means throughout his writings in the New Testament. The law that was written was ultimately God’s law and it was a revelation of His will to the people of the Old Testament. To be born a Jew was a great privilege and honor and for those like Paul who was taught a young age it was embraced in the society. The importance of the law and the fulfillment of the law through Christ is made evident in the Damascus road experience. Paul experienced the transformation of a new life in Christ and opened the door for him to impact the world with the gospel. Paul’s view of the law before his conversion was quite militant and focused upon the letter of the law. The letter of the law meaning he was devoted to the code of the law and finding purpose and forgiveness through keeping the law. Pharisees found their acceptance through their traditions and pursuit of keeping the law. His devotion to the law made him zealous persecutor of the early church and his conscience was not cloudy because of his belief in following the law to secure righteousness before God. Paul was passionate about being “right” in the law and missed out on following the true Messiah that the Pharisees were waiting for (and are still waiting for today). The verse in Galatians 2:19 explains this further, “I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God.”

Paul’s view of Judaism after he was converted was seen in a whole new light. Paul’s view of the Law being the end in order to receive righteousness, it turned into becoming the “school master to bring us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24) and ushered in the belief that Jesus completed the law and now it is a mirror to show us our need for redemption through Christ. The word “school master” is important to understand because the law was primarily given for a certain purpose as an attendant to lead us to Jesus, who is the real teacher. Paul makes it clear that the Law was never given for salvation (we could never obey it), but rather it was a finger pointing to the One who is the only teacher, Jesus. Paul continued to minister to both Gentiles and Jews throughout his ministry and spoke of how both were in bondage in sin and were in need of dying to themselves and come alive in Christ.

The completion of the law that Jesus did on the cross points to Christians being dead to their sin and alive to Christ. God has done through Jesus what the law could not do and that is Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross and paved the way for an eternal relationship with God. Paul encourages believers to move from our weak “flesh” and live in the power of the Spirit.

Paul reminds his readers that salvation does not come through ritual, eating the right foods, wearing the right clothes, but only by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).

Lastly, Paul continued to point not to the outward but to the inward (2 Cor. 3:3). Following a written code or tradition is empty without Christ at the center of it. When a person is changed in their heart by the power of the gospel, they can be made complete through Christ and set free from the bondage of sin. The law now should not to be pushed away but honored now that Christ has fulfilled it. The attitude towards the law should be one that focuses on obeying God’s commands with a spirit of freedom that only comes through a relationship with Christ.